Readers of this blog will know that I have often locked horns with Robert Lambert, one of Britain’s most important Islamist fellow-travellers, for the deeply shoddy work he has produced in his capacity as an Exeter University academic.
Lambert’s unit, the “European Muslim Research Centre,” is heavily funded by Islamist groups and serves its clients by producing pseudo-academic reports claiming, against nearly all the evidence, that life for British Muslims is going to hell in a handcart. You can see my explanation of the deceit involved in his last one here (another part of the same report even had to be withdrawn as libellous.) Lambert is a key defender of Islamism – and a key attacker of its critics, such as myself – and is to be found on every public platform where the East London Mosque,IFE, Muslim Council of Britain and others gather to mourn lost influence. Now, his credibility appears to have been destroyed.
Lambert, a former police officer, has made no secret of the fact that he used to work for Special Branch (as head of the Met’s Muslim Contact Unit, he pioneered the now discarded approach of officially anointing “good Islamists” in the hope that they would act as a bulwark against “bad Islamists.”)
Today’s Guardian, however, goes much further, calling him “a former spy who controlled a network of undercover police officers in political groups” and “ran operations at a covert unit that placed police spies into political campaigns, including those run by anti-racism groups. The unit also disrupted the activities of these groups. Lambert became head of the unit after going undercover himself…he becomes the seventh police officer to be exposed as a police spy in the protest movement.” They are the Guardian’s claims – and we don’t have Lambert’s side of the story – but they are endorsed by at least one of the groups he allegedly infiltrated. The story has been up for nearly 24 hours now and I haven’t heard any denials.
The claims relate mainly to the 1980s and 90s, but the interesting question is whether Lambert has continued to work undercover since supposedly leaving the police. I must say I was always glad to have Lambert as an opponent, simply because his arguments were so easy to unravel. I thought he was just stupid – but maybe he was playing a much cleverer game.
Certainly, Britain’s Islamists are deeply upset and depressed today at the implosion of a man they thought was one of their key advocates. The East London Mosque is hosting an event next month to promote his “ground-breaking research.” I wonder if that one will stay on the calendar much longer?
Yesterday’s Independent on Sunday had an alarming story claiming that “Islamophobic attacks have been on the rise.” It previewed a speech in which Farooq Murad, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, was due to say: “Islamophobic attacks, on persons and properties, are committed by a tiny minority, but the number of incidents is increasing. Robust action is necessary.”
However, the same article quoted some interesting figures from the Metropolitan Police – the first I’ve seen on specifically Islamophobic incidents – which diametrically contradict both Mr Murad’s claim and the Sindy’s own. The paper said there had been “762 Islamophobic offences in London since April 2009, including 333 in 2010/11 and 57 since this April.” It said there were only a few forces which collect this data; figures from the other forces weren’t given.
If a total of 762 offences have been committed since April 2009, 57 of them since this April and 333 of them in 2010/11, that means the number committed in 2009/10 was 372. Between 09/10 and 10/11 there was therefore a drop of 39 offences – or more than 10 per cent.
I have to suspect, from the unusual way the paper presented the figures, that either it or the MCB was trying to conceal this inconvenient truth. Though the Sindy described the MCB as “Britain’s largest mainstream Muslim organisation,” it is in fact heavily influenced by a creed which is very far from mainstream in the British Muslim community – Islamism, the doctrine that Islam is a form of government not just a religion.
Farooq Murad himself is or has been a trustee of the Islamist Markfield Institute and of Muslim Aid, a charity closely linked to the radical Islamic Forum of Europe and East London Mosque, who have long dominated the key positions of the MCB.
One of British Islamists’ key articles of faith – extremely useful for recruitment and in furtherance of their separatist agenda – is that Muslims are under growing attack by the rest of British society. Its disciples do their level best to propagate this claim despite a complete lack of evidence – in conferences and meetings and in the deplorable work of the Exeter University academic and Islamist client, Robert Lambert, whose dishonesty and shoddiness on the subject is exposed here. (Since then, things have got even worse for Bob Lambert – Exeter has been forced to remove an entire chapter of his opus and apologise to people he libelled.) Inevitably, Lambert pops up in the Sindy piece, described as a “leading academic.” Not so leading that he knows how to use a calculator, it seems.
There is, of course, plenty of anti-Muslim hatred in Britain, and it’s disgraceful. But these police figures are the only the latest in a great deal of evidence to suggest that it is, thankfully, diminishing. Britain’s main anti-Muslim political party, the BNP, has lost the vast majority of its councillors, and effectively collapsed. Racial attacks in many Muslim areas, such as Tower Hamlets, are sharply down. The Tory chairmanship, once home of Norman “Cricket Test” Tebbit, is held by a Muslim woman.
The number of Muslim MPs doubled at the last election, several of them elected for entirely non-Muslim, Middle English seats (such as Bromsgrove and Stratford-on-Avon) without any backlash whatever. Continental moves to ban minarets and the niqab have gained no political traction whatever in Britain.
Muslims are making their way successfully into the mainstream of British life. Shame on the MCB for stereotyping them as victims, and shame on the Sindy for falling for the Islamists’ grievance-mongering agenda.
One aspect of Robert Lambert’s richly comic “Islamophobia” report that I didn’t cover in my post yesterday is its chapter on my Channel 4 Dispatches programme about the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) and Tower Hamlets. The chapter is written by someone who, the report says, “has asked to remain anonymous on this occasion.” Wisely, I think.
The argument of my nameless critic is that I and my witnesses have got it all wrong. Lutfur Rahman, the council leader (now mayor) in Tower Hamlets, wasn’t dumped by Labour because of his close links with the IFE. It was instead, apparently, because the “white New Labour elite” wanted to “systematically marginalise” the Bangladeshi community; and because Lutfur’s “brand of left-wing populism represented a direct threat to the established hierarchy within Tower Hamlets Labour Party.”
As Ted Jeory, former deputy editor of the local newspaper, points out, this is a blatant rewriting of history. Jeory covered the council closely and often saw Lutfur in action. Rahman was in fact, he says, “one of Labour’s main ringleaders against Respect’s populist Left-wing policies and motions in the council chamber.” As for the charge of racism by the “New Labour elite,” Lutfur’s principal opponent, Helal Abbas, is himself a Bangladeshi.
Jeory also describes the Lambert report’s dishonesty over one of Lutfur’s most discreditable episodes – his hiring of Lutfur Ali, an ill-qualified CV cheat with close links to the IFE, as the council’s assistant chief executive, followed by his effective sacking of Tower Hamlets’ widely-respected chief executive, Martin Smith. In Lambert-land, this is presented as “by no means extraordinary,” a statement described by Jeory as “inaccurate and disingenuous in the extreme.”
My own favourite bit of this chapter is the anonymous author’s lip-trembling outrage at Labour’s decision to put the local party into “special measures” – something amply justified by the extraordinary movements in its membership, which rose by 110 per cent in a matter of months and saw dozens of new “members” joining on the same day, sometimes up to eight of them in a single two-bedroom flat. Many of the new members had the same names as people we can link to the IFE. “Special measures” meant that such “members” no longer had a say in selecting Labour’s council candidates.
To our bashful writer, this was the Tower Hamlets equivalent of Guantanamo Bay. “Special measures have the same essential characteristics as a so-called ‘state of emergency,’ whereby state authorities are free to override the law and even the constitution in the interests of national security,” he says. “This culture of impunity has enabled a series of abuses.”
The sheer silliness and lack of proportion here is striking. The Labour Party constitution gives head office the perfect right to intervene if it suspects manipulation or corruption. On behalf of the dark forces of neo-con evil which I am said to represent, I hereby promise that Lutfur Rahman will not be assassinated by an unmanned CIA drone or bundled off in an orange jumpsuit.
Almost as stupid is the claim, earlier in the report, that the Dispatches investigation prompted an upsurge of “intimidation” in Tower Hamlets by the English Defence League. What actually happened is that fifteen members of the EDL paid a visit to a local pub, and an even smaller number subsequently came back to the same pub. A planned demonstration by the group never took place. To my knowledge, there has not been even one single incident of violence or intimidation against the East London Mosque as a result of my film; I’m quite sure the mosque would have let us all know if there had been.
From the Islamists’ point of view the real problem, of course, with Labour’s behaviour in Tower Hamlets is that it is pushing them out of the party they so carefully infiltrated. Islamists still, through Lutfur, exercise power in the borough – but only as outcast independents with no good future in front of them. I can quite understand why our anonymous author isn’t happy about that.
I’ve been in the Far East for a few days, so I missed the big launch of Robert Lambert’s Islamophobia report at the East London Mosque on Saturday. But now I’ve got back, what a very special treat it is!
Bob Lambert, as readers of this blog will know, is a former policeman who has turned himself into one of Britain’s most important fellow-travellers of Islamism. As head of the Met’s Muslim Contact Unit, he brokered the deal which turned over the North London Central Mosque, in Finsbury Park, to supporters of the terrorist group Hamas. He has also fiercely defended the hardline Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) and its East London Mosque.
He is now an academic, generously funded by various Islamist groups and specialising in pseudo-scholarly defences of his clients – at least for the moment. I say that because the report he produced last week, under the name of Exeter University, must surely cause the Exeter authorities to ask whether they can any longer afford to be associated with him.
Reading it, I felt almost embarrassed for Lambert and his co-author, Jonathan Githens-Mazer, at having produced something so hopelessly weak. Far from being an academic or even pseudo-academic work, it is a political rant, and not a sophisticated one.
What else are we to make of passages such as the following, from page 14 of the report, about the people, sorry the “extremists,” who argued that Tory politicians should not attend October’s Islamist “Global Peace and Unity” event, where material glorifying terrorism was openly on sale:
“We conceive these extremists as neo-conservative ‘Know Nothings’, who, like their earlier American mid-19th century namesakes, represent a narrow view on British politics. Membership is limited – by class, by network, by education, by ideological orientation, and mostly by cliquishness. …They alone seek to define membership in the British club – on their terms or no terms at all, and is [sic] more than vaguely reminiscent of Lord Tebbit’s ‘cricket test’.”
Or this, about the anti-Islamist think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation (page 136):
“[F]rom the guide books to colonial counter-insurgency and Cold War counter-subversion…government and police chiefs have created and promoted the work of the Quilliam Foundation. We therefore refer to the government’s support for the Quilliam Foundation as discrimination because it treats Muslims unfairly and in a way that would not be countenanced in respect of other minority communities in the UK.”
Or the extraordinary passage about the IFE’s former president, and current head of the East London Mosque, Mohammed Abdul Bari, that opens this “academic research report:”
“Dr Bari is not the first advocate of social justice to be attacked by extremists from opposing ideological standpoints. It is no co-incidence that old Labour socialists Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn were attacked as ‘sell outs’ by Frank Furedi, Claire Fox, Brendan O’Neil and Mick Hume when they were leaders of the vanguard Revolutionary Communist Party in the 1980s and then, in contrast, as ‘diehard socialists’ when the revolutionary communists re-invented themselves as extremist liberals in the 2000s. Unwittingly, [Quilliam Foundation researchers] [Ed] Husain, [Maajid] Nawaz and [Shiraz] Maher are following the same path as Furedi, Fox, O’Neil and Hume in wearing new ideologies like new coats. Significantly, in both instances, the switch from a revolutionary ideology in youth to a reactionary ideology in early middle age is advantageous in terms of political influence, personal pecuniary advantage and economic security.
“Just like Benn, Livingstone and Corbyn, Dr Bari has not moved an inch in his commitment to social justice while his arch detractors have undergone role reversals. Indeed, just as extremists like Husain and Fox often mature into reactionary scourges of their younger selves mainstream politicians like Benn, Livingstone, Corbyn and Dr Bari invariably stay true to their political principles throughout their mature years.”
This is semi-deranged, the stuff of Private Eye’s Dave Spart.
The “research report’s” core “findings” are equally preposterous. They are, inter alia, that there is at the moment an outbreak of what the authors quite seriously call “terrorism” against Muslims in Britain. They say:
“Terrorism and political violence against Muslims is our deliberate and considered choice of description for a range of serious threats faced by Muslim communities in the UK… Threats of political violence from a diverse extremist nationalist milieu are every bit as credible as those that fall under an al-Qaeda umbrella… the government should treat both terrorist threats with equal importance and in the same way…. Violent extremist nationalists in the UK have a present capacity to inflict death and destruction on a scale that is broadly comparable to their UK counterparts who are inspired instead by al-Qaeda.”
I think “broadly comparable” in this context must mean “not comparable at all.” The number of Muslims killed by “violent extremist nationalists” in Britain is nil, or very close to it. The number of people killed by al-Qaeda is 52.
Over the last ten years, half a dozen or so white right-wingers have indeed been convicted of possessing explosives and other weapons. But all were loners who were not acting in concert with any group, nor in most cases did they have any specific plans or targets. By contrast, there have over the same period been 127 convictions for Islamist-related terrorism in the UK, plus a number of other British subjects or residents convicted in other countries, and a number of further cases currently going through the British courts. Many of these convictions relate to serious and carefully-organised plots against specific targets involving substantial numbers of people.
The authors get round this little problem by redefining terrorism. In their words: “Terrorism cannot be understood only in terms of violence. It has to be understood primarily in terms of propaganda. Violence and propaganda, however, have much in common. Violence aims at behaviour modification by coercion. Propaganda aims at the same by persuasion. Terrorism can be seen as a combination of the two.”
Lambert and Githens-Mazer are undeniably well-qualified to talk about propaganda – but to equate, say, the anti-Muslim frothings of the English Defence League with the murder of people on the London Underground is an abuse of language that would not be tolerated in a tabloid newspaper, let alone an academic report.
Even on the actual violence side of their argument, there’s a problem. Lambert and Githens-Mazer claim in their report that there has been “an alarming rise in what can best be described as anti-Muslim hate crime.” They say that “violent attack[s]” against Muslim women wearing the niqab, burka or hijab “have become commonplace in parts of the UK.” They say that “intimidation and violence against Muslims has become warranted and routine” and that many Muslim communities are under a “state of siege.”
Though these are described as “research findings,” the report gives no research or evidence whatever to back any of them up, and no figures. Indeed, there are none to give. According to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), police have only been breaking down hate crime data into five strands, one of which is faith, since 2008.
We can, however, attempt to see whether Lambert and Githens-Mazer have a point by looking at overall hate crime figures in heavily-Muslim areas. Here, for instance, are the figures for race and/or faith hate offences in London’s main Muslim borough, Tower Hamlets. The majority of these, of course, would not have been crimes of violence.
I chose Tower Hamlets because the vast majority of its non-white population is Muslim, and therefore most of the victims here would have been Muslim. And the truth, in this borough at least, is the polar opposite of what Lambert and Githens-Mazer claim. In this Muslim area, there has been a 50% reduction in hate crime.
The figures for the first four years are from April to April and are from the annual reports of the Metropolitan Police Authority’s Race Hate Crime Forum. The figures for the last two years are October to October from the Met Police website.
In England and Wales as a whole, according to the latest Home Office statistics, the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences has fallen by 11.4 per cent over the last four years for which figures are available (page 20 of this PDF.)
As I say, statistics for purely faith hate crime alone going back over a long period are harder to find. But the latest online minutes of the Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum, for the meeting held on 5 October 2010, show that in the months of August and September there were – wait for it – a grand total of sevenfaith hate crimes reported to the police in the borough, not all of which from the description in fact appear to be faith hate crimes. The previous minutes, for the 15 June meeting, showed a total of eight faith hate crimes between April 1 and June 14, of which only two were against Muslims.
It is true that earlier this week new figures from ACPO showed a year-on-year rise in reported faith hate crimes in England and Wales as a whole. These numbers, however, were not available to Lambert and Githens-Mazer when they wrote their report, and are described by Acpo as having been published this week for “the first time.”
Nor is it clear what faiths the victims were – if Tower Hamlets is any guide, the majority will not have been Muslim – or whether the increase is a longer-term trend (the only two years for which figures are available are 2008 and 2009, and it is unwise to compare figures for two years in isolation.)
Finally, according to ACPO, the total number of reported faith hate crimes, for all faiths, across the whole country, over the whole of last year was 2,083 – or six a day – less than half the number of, for instance, homophobic hate crimes. And again, the vast majority of those 2,083 crimes would not have been violent.
Buried deep in Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s report is the coy admission that, for all the authors’ inflammatory claims about waves of Islamophobic terrorism and communities under siege, there is, ahem, “insufficient data to establish [the] scale of anti-Muslim hate crimes.”
Even Britain’s Muslims themselves have, it seems, been distressingly reluctant to furnish the authors with the longed-for apocalyptic picture. Quite the funniest part of the report is where Lambert and Githens-Mazer complain that with many Muslims they interviewed “anti-Muslim hate crime was implausibly denied or demonstrably neglected by Muslim interviewees who had direct knowledge of it,” accusing them of “wilfully burying their heads in the sand.” False consciousness, eh, lads?
Further evidence of the dynamic duo’s iron-hard scholarly rigour comes on page 32, where they claim that “since 9/11 arson, criminal damage, violence and intimidation against mosques, Islamic institutions and Muslim organisations has increased dramatically.” By page 104, however, they are stating: “How many out of approximately 1600 mosques, Islamic centres and Muslim organisations in the UK have been attacked since 9/11? Our research project aims to answer these questions…Much painstaking research lies ahead before we can provide an accurate picture” (my italics).
Deciding on the answer before you have done the research, or peddling false conclusions in defiance of the available evidence, are, of course, the most serious crimes in academia.
But the primary purpose of the Lambert- Githens-Mazer dodgy dossier is not academic; it is political. The authors’ real aim is not to defend Britain’s Muslims, but to defend their own paymasters, the Islamist leaders of the IFE and its allies. As they put it: “It is impossible to deal effectively with the multi-faceted problem of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred without grasping the nettle of neo-Conservative campaigning against effective, credible, politically-active Muslims like Dr Bari.”
The reason Islamists need to claim a rising tide of “anti-Muslim hatred,” however slender the evidence, is three-fold. First, it furthers their agenda of promoting distance between Muslims and non-Muslims. Second, it is aimed at frightening Muslims into their camp. Third, it enables them to stifle criticism; any attacks on Islamists can be dismissed as “Islamophobic” attacks against all Muslims.
Much of the report amounts to a cry of pain against the likes of me, Martin Bright, Qulliam and Policy Exchange who, the report flatteringly concedes, have helped weaken Islamism’s influence in the British state; and a call for Islamist and IFE-dominated bodies to be given back their “partnership relationships” with the authorities. (There’s also a whole chapter on my Dispatches documentary about the IFE; more on that tomorrow, but for now see Ted Jeory’s deeply-informed demolition of it here.)
Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s client relationship is clear and direct. Their Exeter University unit, the European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) – and this latest report – is funded by the Cordoba Foundation, which has been described by David Cameron as a “front for the [Islamist] Muslim Brotherhood.”
The Spanish city of Cordoba was, of course, the capital of the last European Islamic caliphate. The Cordoba Foundation’s director of research, Abdullah Folik, is a trustee of the IFE, which believes, in its own words, in creating a new caliphate in Europe and in transforming the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.”
The report and the EMRC are also funded by Islam Expo, one of whose directors is Mohammed Sawalha, described by the BBC’s Panorama as a former senior commander in Hamas and put in by Lambert as a trustee of his favourite North London Central Mosque (not coincidentally, there is also a frothing defence of the mosque in the report.)
The report is so transparently shrill and dishonest that I really don’t think the Islamists have got their money’s worth. Even the usual suspects online and in the press seem to have ignored it and the report is no longer available to download from the Cordoba website. Perhaps they’ve realised what an own goal it is.
The more important financial question is for Exeter University. I know universities need to get income from wherever they can these days, but the price of this particular funding in terms of political pain, media attention and academic credibility could turn out to be rather high.
Over the last few months, I and others monitoring Islamism’s influence inside the British state have started to believe that the tide is turning. Last week one of British Islamism’s most important fellow-travellers, a man called Bob Lambert, appeared to confirm my view.
When Lambert was head of the Metropolitan Police’s Muslim Contact Unit, he exemplified a view shared by some others in the security establishment: that we can anoint “good Islamists” and use them as a bulwark against the “bad Islamists.”
The showpiece for this approach is the North London Central Mosque, also known as the Finsbury Park Mosque. The mosque, formerly home to Abu Hamza and a centre of terrorist recruitment, was closed after a police raid in 2003. On its reopening, in a deal brokered by Lambert, it was essentially gifted to an Islamist group, the Muslim Association of Britain. The new leadership were certainly more moderate than Abu Hamza – not terribly hard – but they have close links with another designated terrorist organisation, Hamas.
Last week, in an article for the al-Jazeera website, Lambert defended a decision by some of his other Islamist allies, such as the East London Mosque, to host meetings with the terrorist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. At first reading, I merely enjoyed Lambert’s piece as a rare full bingo card of all the techniques from the I-Spy Book of Advanced Islamist Rhetoric (lofty pseudo-academic tone? Check. Calling anyone who disagrees with you a “neo-con”? Check. Wilfully misrepresenting what they actually said? Check. Labelling as “speculative” any facts you don’t like? Check.)
But then I noticed, buried near the end, Lambert’s significant admission that “the weight of think-tank and media opinion appears to have discouraged the Government from adopting and promoting the Finsbury Park model.” Hurrah! The trustees of Finsbury Park include Mohammed Sawalha, described by the BBC’s Panorama as a former senior figure in Hamas who “is said to have masterminded much of Hamas’s political and military strategy” from his perch in London. The mosque’s spokesman, Azzam Tamimi, has justified suicide bombings against civilians (but only Israeli ones, so that’s all right, then.)
Lambert’s policy was a tamer version of the securocrats’ disastrous pre-9/11 misjudgment, the so-called “compact of security,” when they allowed Hamza and other al-Qaeda sympathisers openly to use London as a base in the touching belief that it would somehow count in our favour with Osama bin Laden. At Finsbury Park, Lambert legitimised fringe minority radicals as authentic, mainstream voices. Glad he knows he’s been rumbled.